On 1 July 2023, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police initiated a massive manhunt throughout the city following the tragic killing of a traffic police constable by criminal gangs or ‘snatchers’ at Tejgoan in the north of the capital. Over the course of a month, the police arrested approximately 1050 people in connection with this incident. Most of those apprehended were homeless and vulnerable children living on the streets of Dhaka. Among the detainees were seven children enrolled with Pother Ishkul, an organisation that works with vulnerable juveniles and street children. These students were subsequently charged in five separate cases, which were registered in five different police stations in Dhaka. The charges brought against them related to preparation and assembly for dacoity and robbery under sections 399 and 402 of the Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860.
During the course of the manhunt operation and the subsequent arrests, iProbono noted several glaring errors in the legal processes followed during the arrest and detention of the children. These included:
- Unlawful Detention: The children were subjected to unlawful detention for a period ranging from 5 to 7 days before their formal arrests. This prolonged unlawful detention violated both constitutional provisions and the directives of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, which mandate that arrests be made in accordance with established legal procedures and that arrestees/detainees be produced before the court within 24 hours.
- Misrepresentation of arrest and detention particulars: The police arrested the children in the vicinity of their school but attributed the crimes to different locations, potentially to make a strong case against the children.
- Misrepresentation of Age: The police also misrepresented the children’s ages, misrepresenting them as adults, thereby distorting the facts of the case.
iProbono swiftly responded to the distressing situation faced by the children of Pother Ishkul. iProbono panel lawyers Md. Bayzid Bostame and Md. Sohel Rana, along with iProbono Legal Officer Tarek Rahman, filed bail applications for the seven children in the Court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Dhaka.
Through rigorous legal arguments, iProbono’s team emphasised the flawed arrest and detention process and highlighted the vulnerability of the children. Upon hearing the legal arguments from both sides and by perusing the petition and case record, the court ordered the release of the children on bail. This achievement marked a significant step towards restoring the rights and dignity of such vulnerable children. The cases are currently pending trial, and iProbono is hopeful for a positive response with the discharge of all children.
iProbono is also considering taking the matter before the Supreme Court of Bangladesh through strategic litigation. The aim is to challenge instances of the police’s unlawful practices that run contrary to constitutional and human rights. By doing so, iProbono seeks to ensure that similar incidents of injustice against vulnerable children are prevented in the future and that the rights and dignity of all citizens are upheld equally.